This is a team that just does not give up and this whole performance sums up Town’s season.
A nervous and lacklustre opening 45 minutes was swept away by a second-half performance that showed all of the qualities Uwe Rosler has installed on this side since he arrived three days before the first game of the season; grit, skill, quality and a never-say-die belief to ensure the race for promotion goes to the final day.
The final goal and the left foot of right-footed midfielder Kyle Dempsey classed the game in a nutshell.
With the score 2-2, Town knew only a win would do, and with four strikers on the pitch, it was a goal engineered from the back.
Amari’i Bell cleared the ball down the left flank to Dempsey, who slotted the ball inside to David Ball.
He found Ash Hunter on the right with the forward pulling the ball back to the top of the box where Dempsey’s engine was still running to get on the end of that ball and slot it home.
It was a thorough team goal and showed that, even in the 92nd minute, Town’s footballing principles would prevail and they did even if it took one of the last kicks to ensure Bolton – whose fans were prematurely celebrating promotion at Port Vale – will have to keep that champagne on ice and perhaps even send a crate to Highbury next Sunday if Rosler’s underdogs continue to upset the applecart.
Rosler made two changes to the side that beat Millwall 1-0 on Easter Monday with Dempsey and Hunter in for Wes Burns and Cameron Brannagan.
The big team news was the sight of returning striker Devante Cole and defender Cian Bolger on the bench.
It was a quick start by Fleetwood as, fresh off the back of opening his account in the 1-0 win over Millwall, Ben Davies had an early sight of goal as he nodded George Glendon’s free-kick towards goal with Ball just diverting the header into Tomas Holy’s arms.
After a tame opening Fleetwood sprang into life just before the half hour mark with Bell’s first-time effort from a well-worked Glendon corner just batted away by Holy.
But it was the Gills who took the lead just before half-time as Lee Martin whipped a corner from the left up towards Zesh Rehman.
His header clattered onto the inside of the post before hitting a scrambling Alex Cairns and rolling over the line as, for once, luck was not shining on Town’s keeper.
With Vale down to 10 men against Bolton it seemed that Town’s hopes of automatic promotion were going to whimper to an end.
Rosler made a change at the break, removing skipper Nathan Pond – who was already on a booking – for Bolger.
Town got themselves back in it in the 54th minute with a bit of route one football.
There was no fast-flowing counter-attack; just three touches.
Keeper Cairns hoofed the ball up from the back, Ball knocked the ball down and Hunter was on hand to break his goal duck.
A sublime first-time finish from just outside the box steamed into the bottom corner and ended a drought that stretched back to January’s 3-1 win over Bristol Rovers.
It seemed the momentum was with Town with Bobby Grant nearly giving the visitors the lead.
His effort from just inside the box crashed off the left post and just missed the run of the lurking Hunter.
The Gills re-took the lead in the 65th minute after Ash Eastham was harshly punished for fouling Cody McDonald just outside the box.
Rory Donnelly’s subsequent set piece took a big deflection off Town’s wall and flew past Cairns.
That was another slice of luck for the hosts but Rosler, knowing full well Bolton were winning at Vale Park, had one last throw of the dice.
He threw on both Cole and Burns for Glendon and Eastham as he shifted to 4-3-3 with Ball moving just behind a front three with Cole and Hunter wide on the flanks and Burns in the middle.
And it nearly had an immediate impact as Burns won the ball in the box but Hunter could only curl the ball straight at Holy.
It took the palm of Cairns to tip Jake Hessenthaler’s effort on to the post before Town pulled level in the 80th minute.
Dempsey’s set-piece from just outside Town’s half was met by Bolger, who nodded into the path of Ball.
The result was obvious as soon as the forward pounced with a trademark hook over the keeper and into the back of the net.
Dempsey then carved his name into Town’s history books with a fine first time 92nd minute finish in a move that he helped create and finish to take the battle for Championship football to the final day.
And, if this performance is anything to go by, any Wanderers wobble will see Rosler’s players make history provided they can keep up this momentum and mentality on Sunday.
Gillingham: Holy, Jackson, Ehmer, Oshilaja, Hessenthaler, Donnelly, McDonald (Cornick, 79), Martin (Osadebe, 82), Parker, Rehman, Wright. Subs not used: Nelson, Herd, List, Cundle, Mbo.
Fleetwood: Cairns, McLaughlin, Eastham (Cole, 69), Pond (Bolger, 46), Davies, Bell, Dempsey, Glendon (Burns, 69), Grant, Hunter, Ball. Subs not used: Urwin, Brannagan, Nirennold, Schwabl.
Referee: Christopher Sarginson.